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Should You Be Open-Minded About Open Offices?

December 4, 2019

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Should You Be Open-Minded About Open Offices?

Everyone is different, we all have different needs and various work styles. So does the increasingly popular open office work as the best solution for everyone? In this article, we have compiled the ultimate list of pros and cons on the open office for you to decide, whether this workspace works for you.

The Pros:

 

Professional Collaboration:

Professional collaboration is the most obvious advantage about an open workspace. It is in fact one of the main reasons why open offices became a thing. Nowadays, most people work in these types of offices, and their results prove effective. People are more likely to collaborate when they’re in the same space, according to Roghanizad and Bohn’s research, face-to-face requests are 34 times more effective than emailed ones.

 

Friendly Bonding:

Not only is it professional connections that matters, people also enjoy having friendships at work, and an open office makes this easier for these to naturally occur. Bring squeezed in a cubicle office all day long is not the most sociable experience.

Balys Kriksciunas, CEO of hosting company Hostinger, says: “Bonding with people can boost the mood and energy of the whole team. It is easier to handle challenges if you don’t feel alone. A friendly relationship with colleagues gives people psychological assurance.”

 

Equality Within Team:

An open office is open for everyone. You can see your colleagues daily, including company leaders. This way, people see top-management as more human and, therefore, more approachable. When managers work in separate spaces, people see them only on rare occasions, and it might create an intimidating relationship. 

University of Manchester's Business School researched unhealthy relationships at work, and found out that working for a toxic boss wreaked havoc on employees’ mental health and affected their personal lives too. Seeing leaders on a daily basis helps to avoid that. 

The Cons

 

Focus Is In Danger:

Open spaces can encourage collaborations and friendships, but the same openness can be distracting. The Guardian writes that “office workers lose an average of 86 minutes per day due to distractions associated with open-plan offices.”

A study by Exeter University, mentioned on “The Secret Life of Buildings”, backs up this con. The study of open-plan offices showed a 15 percent reduction in productivity. 

 

It Can Be Stressful

Sometimes it’s fun to come to an office and have a nice chat with people around you. But sometimes you need some alone time, and every sound or movement around you starts to bother. Insights For Professionals state, that “The potential for conflict arising in such situations is much higher compared to working in separate cubicles or rooms.“

 

Watch Out For Your Health

Offices are open not only for people but for germs and bacteria as well. It means that when someone is sick, there is a good chance that sickness will spread rapidly. A study from Denmark confirms this theory. In the research, they found that workers in open offices took 62 percent more sick days than those in fully enclosed offices. 

So What To Do?

Despite the pros and cons of open workplaces, people do not always have an opportunity to choose. So if you find yourself in an open office, here are some tips on how to make it work for you.


Dedicated Days

When working with a team, not all collaborations are productive. Sometimes people go from meeting to meeting without enough time to do the work. Harvard Business Review writes about a study that surveyed 182 senior managers in a range of industries: 65% said meetings keep them from completing their own work, 64% said meetings come at the expense of deep thinking. 

The solution is dedicated days. Pick at least one day a week when there will be no meetings at all. This way, you and your team can reach a deep focus on the most important tasks without distraction of meetings.


Dedicated Places

Similar to dedicated days, dedicated places allow you to concentrate on one task at a time. For example, having booths for phone calls, rooms for meetings, or a kitchen for chit-chats is a great solution. These boundaries contribute to an efficiently running open office. 


Check Availability

Even though you can reach your colleague within a few steps, it doesn’t mean you should do it right away. Sometimes people are concentrated on their tasks, and even work-related questions can distract them from what they were doing. The Muse recommends to take advantage of customizable technology and set up messages to let colleagues know when they are unavailable. 


Keep It Clean

This tip might be not so obvious, but it’s an important one. Balys Kriksciunas, from Hostinger, explains: “When you’re trying to concentrate, and there is a mess on your desk, it will repeatedly distract your attention away from work. You might notice notes from previous or upcoming tasks, and they will drag you from a current one. The same goes for the tables around you.” So to help you and those around you, keep your workplace tidy. 


When Sick, Go Home

In an open office, people can clearly see when you are not there. It might be one of the reasons why people are taking fewer sick days. Office for National Statistics highlights that back in 1993, average employee once spent 7.2 days a year at home due to illness. They took just 4.1 days off in 2017.

And this is just a wrong thing to do. When feeling sick, leave the office. And when you see someone else who is obviously unhealthy, encourage them to go home as well. 


On the bright side, open offices can encourage your professional and friendly relationships, and create a united team without the fear of leaders. But it can also be distracting, stressful, and risky for your health. 

But since the International Facility Management Association states that nowadays, around 70 percent of offices have some form of an open concept, sometimes, you just need to adapt to it. These tips can help you to do exactly that.

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